Imagine if you had access to the recipes of your ancestors. If you think Mexican food is delicious now, just imagine what it tasted like back in the day. Thanks to a special collection at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) library, these ancient Mexican recipes are now at our fingertips.
The UTSA has accumulated a substantial amount of Mexican and Mexican-American cookbooks with some that date back to 1831. According to Atlas Obscura, the UTSA’s collection, which has more than 2,000 books, is the most extensive collection of Mexican and Mexican-American cookbooks in North America. All of the books are available for viewing at the library in San Antonio, but for people not in Texas, we can also see them online.
But what also makes this collection unique is that these books are not just an insight into how Mexican food was prepared centuries ago, but also how people lived. Many of the cookbooks contain narratives in them as well.
North America’s largest-known Mexican cookbook collection inspires both tears and restaurant dishes. https://t.co/XRKbETbCCL
— Mission Memorials (@mission_funeral) February 11, 2020
“Aside from the treasure of the recipes, many of these [manuscript cookbooks] read like stories themselves,” Rico Torres, chef and co-owner of San Antonio’s Mixtli, told Altas Obscura. “Often there’s a hint of longing for a dish from a faraway place. There was a recipe I came across that was an interesting take on paella, substituting saffron with poblano chile, and Spanish chorizo with local varieties from Puebla.”
According to the publication, this collection first began to come together after San Antonio resident Laurie Gruenbeck donated 550 books in 2001 that she collected from her travels in Mexico. The collection has continued to grow since then and now has more than 2,000.
But don’t be quick to assume that you’re going to get the initiation of Tex-Mex food. These recipes were developed during a critical time in history. As Altas Obscura notes, “It traces the period when Mexico was New Spain and idealized European dishes, to the era after the second Mexican Revolution, when pride in native dishes took center stage.”
This is why homecooked meals are the best, and even when you have the recipes, the dish cannot be replicated. Each plate contains so much love and precision that it’s challenging to get it right, just as our ancestors once did. However, if there’s a special meal that only your abuela or mom can create, now is your chance: write it down. Keep the recipes close to you, and who knows, maybe one day it will be included in another unique collection of our people.
Click here to view the collection.